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Ralph Stockwood prides himself on being a leader, but when he convinced his friends to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, he never envisioned being the sole survivor. Racked with guilt over their deaths, Ralph must move on . . . and find a wife to secure an heir to his family's title and fortune.

Since her Seasons in London ended in disaster, Chloe Muirhead is resigned to spinsterhood. Driven by the need to escape her family, she takes refuge at the home of her mother's godmother, where she meets Ralph. He needs a wife. She wants a husband. So Chloe makes the outrageous suggestion to strike a bargain and get married. One condition: Ralph has to promise that he will never take her back to London. But circumstances change. And to Ralph, it was only a promise.

394 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published June 9, 2015

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About the author

Mary Balogh

209 books5,505 followers
Mary Jenkins was born in 1944 in Swansea, Wales, UK. After graduating from university, moved to Saskatchewan, Canada, to teach high school English, on a two-year teaching contract in 1967. She married her Canadian husband, Robert Balogh, and had three children, Jacqueline, Christopher and Sian. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, music and knitting. She also enjoys watching tennis and curling.

Mary Balogh started writing in the evenings as a hobby. Her first book, a Regency love story, was published in 1985 as A Masked Deception under her married name. In 1988, she retired from teaching after 20 years to pursue her dream to write full-time. She has written more than seventy novels and almost thirty novellas since then, including the New York Times bestselling 'Slightly' sextet and 'Simply' quartet. She has won numerous awards, including Bestselling Historical of the Year from the Borders Group, and her novel Simply Magic was a finalist in the Quill Awards. She has won seven Waldenbooks Awards and two B. Dalton Awards for her bestselling novels, as well as a Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 637 reviews
Profile Image for Nicolette.
117 reviews90 followers
May 12, 2022
“I am your husband. When you feel lonely or afraid or unhappy, it is to me you must come, Chloe. My arms are here for you, and my strength too for whatever it is worth. You will never be a burden to me.”

After her recent London visit sparked rumors about her life, Chloe Muirhead took refuge in Manville Court, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Worthingham. It was during her stay in Manville where she met Ralph Stockwood, the battle-wounded, both mentally and physically, heir of the Duke. He has a duty to marry and produce an heir and she dreams of marriage and children but knows no one would marry her now. Seeing Ralph’s situation as her last chance in changing her life, Chloe strikes a bargain with him: a marriage without feelings that would benefit them both. Although bewildered by her suggestion, Ralph found himself eventually agreeing to the lady’s proposition of an equally beneficial marriage without the complexities of emotions.

Only A Promise is the fifth book from Mary Balogh’s historical romance series, The Survivors’ Club. This tells the story of Ralph Stockwood and Chloe Muirhead. I haven’t read a Mary Balogh book in months. I find that she is the type of author that is best read between long intervals to truly appreciate her work. I find her storytelling to be very slow and it can be both good and bad depending on the reader’s mood. I was exactly in the mood for a Mary Balogh book; there is a quality to her writing that distinguishes her from other authors in the genre. Her books aren’t exactly exciting, in fact it could be deemed boring, but I think her strength is how well she gives life to her characters and how she explores the very human emotions they feel.

Chloe Muirhead is a pragmatic, if sometimes whiny, twenty seven years old spinster. The heroine is a character that one can easily warm to for she is sensible most of the time and she knows what she wants. She was eager to change her situation in life when given the opportunity and she was brave when she needed to be. She was thoughtful and understanding when she could just have been resentful. Chloe has once been burned by love, though I do not believe it was love, more like an infatuation towards someone who gave her attention she very much craved as a debutante. Her life has been nothing short of scandalous because of her family. The recent rumors being spread about her is what hurt her the most and pushed her to live for a while with the duchess. I could feel her wanting to believe something that she knows is a lie and the bitter acceptance of the truth. I feel like I got to know her well enough when I was reading the book and I fear I may not have the words to properly characterize her. I would have to say that she endeared herself to me because she felt very human. Even with all her strength, there were the random bouts of insecurity that I think is a charming quality to any character because it is perfectly normal to have one and makes them feel more real, if that makes sense.

I think this hero is the most depressed Mary Balogh hero I’ve ever had the chance to encounter. Not that I read all of her books, in fact, I’ve only read four but thus far, he was the most unhappy, angsty Mary Balogh hero I’ve had. I didn’t know this author could do the whole tortured hero thing so well, but she did and I am quite impressed. Ralph Stockwood is a deeply wounded man both physically and mentally. I feel for him. There was so much internal dialogue which didn’t annoy me, I even liked it because I felt closer to him and it was instrumental in getting to know his character better. He was scared to be vulnerable, to be dependent on someone, let alone his new wife because of the experiences that changed his life and the way he was. He was a scarred officer, a wounded man, who is forever embittered. I think he was portrayed quite realistically. This is one of the heroes I’ve read wherein he felt resentment for the heroine even when she didn’t do anything but care for him, he was irritated with her presence and yet she was his wife, and he was jealous of her courage when he felt he had none. He can be disagreeable but then it was also obvious that he cares deeply for his wife even when he is reluctant to do so. He resented her energy because he didn’t want to depend on someone and yet his new wife proved to be very efficient. It was the things about her that irritated him that made him eventually love her. It might be a bit off-putting to some readers but I think the development of his feelings towards the heroine was written well and is in character of who he was and who he is. He was a hard man to love but at the same time he wasn’t because he showed his fondness for his wife in a way he knows how.

I actually really liked reading this book. Mary Balogh has such a way with words that I found myself highlighting many passages just because they were written beautifully. The way she characterized Ralph and Chloe was well done. I love the way her books are written because she doesn’t sound too modern and actually sounds era-appropriate without sounding too contrived. This was a historical romance but at its core it was a story about two wounded souls who heal with the help of each other, the acceptance of the truth and letting go of burdens, and the love that is not mere infatuation but a love that was gradually developed between the two of them even when neither were very agreeable at times.

One of the good things about this book is the strong familial relationships and friendships. I loved Chloe’s story and even more Sir Kevin Muirhead and his unconditional love for Chloe despite the truth of her birth. I also really enjoyed her brother, Graham, whose relationship with Ralph bordered on complicated but they eventually formed a true friendship at the end which I very much appreciated. Of course, there were the Old Duke and Duchess who were kind to Chloe and took her in when she was afraid of facing the truth regarding the rumors. I wasn’t expecting to be very affected but I found myself being somehow sad about the Old Duke’s passing, mostly because of what the dowager duchess said afterwards. How very true and scary that life can be taken away in one moment and words that were never said can never be uttered now that they’re gone. It was a book that went beyond romance, there was the exploration of mental health, despair, and death.

Mary Balogh is a master at creating a relationship that is believable and something that goes beyond lust. I noticed that she isn’t particularly the best at writing bed scenes but I think it adds charm and uniqueness to her work. Sometimes, all I want is to read a romance that can be felt and proven without sex scenes that do not add to progress of the plot / relationship. This one had some explicit scenes but weren't really detailed which I actually appreciated. It was implied but at least there wasn’t a whole chapter of them doing it. Do not judge me, sometimes I just am not in the mood to read such scenes because they are somehow boring when repeated. What she focused on was these characters working on themselves, defeating their fears, letting go of their worries and in doing so accepting their love for each other when both thought the marriage wouldn’t involve feelings at first.

She writes such slow paced books. There wasn't any big drama to make the characters realize their fondness of each other. But even so, I think it was well worth the read. This was just a book of two people who are initially reluctant to love and yet found themselves doing so. I loved how the heroine reached out to the hero and how she cared for him, although I did not necessarily agree with her saying that she didn’t love him in a romantic way. She wasn’t in love with him in a way most innocent and naive younger people are with their partners but she did love him romantically and more. Anyway, this was a realistic take on a marriage of convenience and it was boring at times, as it would be in reality. But I found myself invested in the book and rooting for the characters to have their happily ever after! I would have appreciated an epilogue but the last chapter would do as I thought it was sweet. The love declaration wasn’t the most emotional MB I’ve read but it was still good. Honorable mention to Kit and Lauren. I enjoyed seeing their names mentioned! They are by far my favorite Mary Balogh couple. Also, Lord Aidan Bedwyn! I still think he should’ve pursued his career instead of Eve, sorry not sorry. Anyway, this was a good book especially perfect when one is in the mood for a well-written romance between a flawed hero and a heroine who tries her best to be understanding. There is a sweetness in Chloe that endeared her character to me. What really sealed the deal for me is when she cut her hair and was wailing and Ralph didn’t know how to comfort her but still did! It was such a cute moment and one of my favorite scenes in the book. It was the little moments and small progresses that if the reader paid attention to would make them realize when and how they fell in love with each other.

Some Quotes:

His body was not a pretty sight, he knew. She never flinched from it, though.

It occurred to him briefly that he was in no way equipped to deal with female hysterics, but the thing was that she was not just any female. She was his wife. She was Chloe.

“I l-look a f-fright,” she gasped. She probably did. He had not had a chance to properly assess the damages. “Probably,” he agreed.

He was in love with Chloe. Yes, he was— madly, passionately in love, though he had tried hard not to make an idiot of himself by showing it. But his feelings went deeper than the merely romantic or sexual— though neither of those two felt like a mere anything. He loved her. There was no language for that particular state, however. It merely was. He loved her.

“I look forward to growing old with you, Chloe,” he said. “In the fullness of time, that is. I look forward to being young with you first and then middle-aged. I look forward to living all my life with you. Promise not to die before me?” She did not know whether to laugh or cry. “Only if you promise not to die before me,” she said. He laughed softly. “We will do all things together, then, will we?”
Profile Image for Caz.
2,639 reviews999 followers
June 12, 2015
4.5 stars, rounded up.

All the books in Mary Balogh’s Survivor’s Club series take as their central protagonist a character who has been seriously injured by war. Sometimes these are physical injuries, as with Sir Benedict Harper (of The Escape) who lost the use of his legs, and sometimes they are mental, as with Flavian Ponsonby (hero of the previous book – and my favourite of the series so far - Only Enchanting). In each case, the author has approached her characters’ injuries and disabilities sensitively and un-sentimentally, showing how difficult it has been for each of them to regain anything resembling a normal life following their terrible experiences, and has matched each of them so far with a heroine who has her own, though different, dragons to slay.

Ralph Stockwood is Earl of Berwick and heir to his grandfather, the Duke of Worthingham. The duke is ailing, and Ralph knows that it is past time for him to his duty – he must marry and produce a son as soon as possible so as to ensure the succession. He won’t shirk his duty, but is far from overjoyed at the prospect of having to select a wife from the year’s crop of simpering misses just out of the schoolroom. He returned from war a very different man to the outgoing, optimistic one who went off, accompanied by his closest friends, to fight for king and country; and even though he has returned to society following the three years he spent convalescing at Penderris Hall with his fellow Survivors, he is plagued by an inner darkness and a feeling of emptiness that makes him reluctant to condemn any young woman to a life with him.

Chloe Muirhead is the grand-daughter of the duchess’s dearest friend, and is on an indefinite visit to Manville Court. Her life has been tainted by scandal, none of it of her making. Her first season had to be delayed due to mourning so she did not make her début until she was twenty-one, making her several years older than that year’s crop of eager, marriageable young misses. She nonetheless garnered an offer of marriage, but her fiancé cried off when her younger sister ran off with a married man, by whom she was expecting a child. Some years later, Chloe returned to society, only to find herself “cut” by the ton, because of speculation about her parentage.

Humiliated once more, Chloe fled London, her hopes of marriage and children dashed – but she needed some breathing space away from home, hence her stay with the duke and duchess.

She overhears a discussion between Ralph and his grandmother in which they discuss his need for a wife, and Chloe thinks that perhaps she has a solution to both their problems. Even though she finds Ralph somewhat forbidding, she suggests to him that they marry. She wants to be married and he needs to be married – she will give him an heir, and he will give her a home and a comfortable life. But love, romance and affection are most definitely NOT on the table as far as Ralph is concerned, he does not wish Chloe to know him or he to know her. Chloe’s main wish is to live the rest of her life well away from the glare of London society, and as Ralph is as keen to do that as she is, she is content with what is on offer.

The Marriage of Convenience is probably my favourite trope in historical romance, so the premise of this story naturally appealed to me very much. I enjoyed watching Ralph and Chloe coming to the gradual realisation that it is not feasible –or desirable – to live a life devoid of companionship at the very least. Chloe senses the emptiness inside Ralph, but because of their bargain, doesn’t ask him about it, no matter that she knows it’s eating away at him. He keeps reminding her that he’s a shell of a man with nothing to offer – he has been so badly traumatised by the things he experienced during the war that he has walled off his emotions and wishes never to feel again. There are times, I admit, when Ralph is difficult to like because of the way he treats Chloe and deliberately shuts her out, sometimes quite cruelly. There are reasons for this, of course, but it is still difficult to read.

Chloe is an engaging heroine, and I liked her rather fatalistic approach to life. None of the problems she has encountered are her fault, and even though she is more or less resigned to an uneventful life, she puts on a brave face and just gets on with it. Her proposal to Ralph takes a lot of courage, as do many of the things she does later in the book, and if I have a niggle, it's that it takes her a bit too long to protest her husband’s sometimes callous treatment of her in the early stages of their marriage.

Ralph’s emotional scars run deep and his journey back to the land of the living is a difficult one. Chloe has fears of her own to face, too, but face them she does, with Ralph’s help and support. His growing realisation that he can’t maintain his emotional distance from Chloe, and the way in which she gradually worms her way under his skin and into his heart are very well-portrayed and often very poignant.

Ralph and Chloe are well-drawn, sympathetic characters, and one of their strengths as a couple is that, despite a rocky start, they actually TALK to each other and behave like responsible adults. There is an equally strong secondary cast, in particular Ralph’s grandparents and Chloe’s brother, Graham, and a number of the other Survivors make cameo appearances. In spite of the small reservations I’ve mentioned, Only a Promise is a terrific read, and certainly a worthy addition to this enjoyable series.

Profile Image for Geo Marcovici.
1,217 reviews292 followers
September 5, 2020
“Doar o promisiune”, este povestea lui Chloe și a lui Ralph. O poveste plină de emoție, de durere și suferință, a două suflete mult prea rănite.
Chloe nu este bine văzută de aristocrația londoneză după ce sora ei a fugit cu un bărbat căsătorit, chiar dacă, după aceea cei doi au devenit soț și soție. Dar asta nu este totul. A mai fost un scandal când o tânără debutantă și-a făcut apariția în Londra și societatea a observat că tânăra seamănă foarte bine cu Chloe...
A fost rănită și deziluzionată de aceste două întâmplări care au marcat-o, a suferit când tot vălul inocenței s-a destrămat cu atâta ușurință. Dar cel mai tare a durut-o că a ajuns să se îndoiască de proprii părinți.
Pe de altă parte îl avem pe Ralph, un tânăr conte care s-a lăsat condus de instincte în tinerețe, a decis să plece în război contra lui Napoleon. Ba chiar și-a luat cu el și cei trei prieteni foarte buni. Dar soarta nu a fost îngăduitoare, aceștia și-au pierdut viața chiar sub ochii lui. De atunci a rămas marcat.
Se simte vinovat, nu are curajul să mai dea ochii cu părinții acestora; ba mai mult, propriile răni căpătate în război, care l-au marcat și i-au pus viața în pericol par a fi nimic pe lângă sufletul lui măcinat de vinovăție. În primele luni după întoarcerea acasă din război, acesta a încercat chiar să își ia viața...
Astfel, datorită acestei încercări nereușite a ajuns să facă parte din Clubul Supraviețuitorilor. Acești 7 membri au fost familia lui, alături de ei s-a recuperat fizic și a încetat să-și mai dorească moartea.
Soarta îi aduce împreună pe Ralph și Chloe, care se cunosc în casa bunicilor lui și se căsătoresc cu o zi înainte ca bunicul său să moară. Înțelegerea lor este destul de simplă: copii și lipsa emoțiilor este ceea ce-și dorește el, ea este de acord deoarece vrea să aibă o casă și copii, o identitate de care să nu se mai îndoiască.
Dar, deși aranjamentul acesta pare a funcționa, fiecare dintre ei constată că emoțiile încearcă să-și facă apariția. Iar ei luptă din toate puterile cu aceste emoții.
O poveste ce pare rece, cu două personaje destul de rezervate și sceptice în privința iubirii, care au fost mult prea rănite pentru a mai risca din nou.
Autoarea Mary Balogh a creat o poveste dură, o realitate crudă despre sechelele unei traume, despre ura și răutatea oamenilor. O poveste pe care o citești cu speranță că acești doi tineri vor avea șansa de a vedea că iubirea aduce și fericire, nu doar suferință.
Un cuplu mult prea încercat, care se vede nevoit să-și îndepărteze barierele cu atâta suferință și lacrimi construite.
O poveste de dragoste care se dezvoltă încet, chiar sub ochii noștri.
Profile Image for ♥Rachel♥.
1,823 reviews834 followers
September 7, 2015
4.5 Stars

Chloe Muirhead chances at love have been dashed. Disgraced through a family scandal she’s basically ineligible for marriage, and at the age of twenty-seven she’s well on her way to becoming a spinster. Staying with her mother’s godmother, the Duchess of Worthingham has provided a escape of sorts, out of sight and mind from London society.

Ralph Stockwood only wishes he was ineligible, because he has no desire to fall in love or form any emotional attachment. His emotional scars from fighting in the Napoleonic War weighed him down with guilt, and for a time he didn’t even want to live, not feeling worthy. Marrying and letting someone in doesn’t sound appealing at all, but as the heir to the Duke of Worthingham Ralph must provide an heir for the title. With the current Duke, his grandfather, aging and ailing, he must find a wife soon.

When Chloe hears of Ralph’s predicament, she makes an offer of marriage with no expectations of emotional ties or love from him. She provides an heir, takes care of the house and Ralph can go on about with his life without much changing. Oh, how naïve we can be, right?

I adored Chloe! I admired her strength and courage, her determination to rely on herself to take what happiness she could from life and not to expect others to give it to her. She wasn’t bitter when Ralph was distant or pulled away after opening up to her, because she never expected him to in the first place. She counted every amount of tenderness he offered her as a happy surprise, but didn’t want to put too much stock in it and have her heart crushed by relying on it.

Ralph for his part was surprised when he found himself yearning for his wife and the affection and comfort she provided. Also, that he desired her; it didn’t really register how beautiful she was until right after they married. These feelings scared him:

And his very longing for the night, for her body, for her, had almost kept him away. For frankly he was a bit bewildered and more than a bit alarmed by his eagerness.

Ralph was happily surprised that Chloe enjoyed sex just as much as he did. It would be impossible not to form some emotional bond, not to fall in love when you allow someone in enough to enjoy sex on a regular basis, especially if you sleep with them, and grow attached to their presence in your bed every night. Chloe and Ralph were sincerely good people and therefore saw the good in each other, and that admiration along with physical attraction inevitably turned into love, much as neither wanted to admit it. Chloe and Ralph, with all their intentions of keeping at arm’s length emotionally, provided each other the support and motivation to face their fears and confront their individual baggage from the past.

For a beautiful historical romance that will tug at your heart, and fill you with joy, Mary Balogh’s Survivors’ Club series cannot be missed. Only a Promise was a gradual build toward love, full of small steps forward and some occasional steps back. Both the progress and the digression pulled at my emotions! While the story is part of the Survivors’ Club series, it’s not necessary to read the other books to enjoy Only a Promise. I did read Only Enchanting, the book previous, and completely loved it, though.

A copy was kindly provided by Signet in exchange for a honest review.

Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
April 27, 2016
I find I don't have a lot to say about this. Mary Balogh writes well, but this is a fairly formulaic marriage-of-convenience tale with an emotionally damaged hero and a heroine who's had a few hard knocks in her own life.

It's an interesting and worthy idea, writing a series of romances about a group of men and a woman who have been deeply damaged by the Napoleonic Wars in Regency England times. I read The Arrangement a couple of years ago, about Vincent, the one who was blinded in the war (also a marriage of convenience story, heh, I seem to be a sucker for those), and found it more memorable.
Profile Image for Grecia Robles.
1,440 reviews323 followers
September 21, 2019

Me sentí como globo desinflado al final del libro.
Me estaba gustando mucho, la sinopsis es prometedora tipo como el libro de The Duchess Deal.

Un hombre desfigurado en la guerraee, endurecido, frío pero sintiendo un profundo dolor y una mujer solterona con sus secretos, un matrimonio por conveniencia y yo dije YASS!!

El 40% del libro es bueno me estaba gustando mucho pero se quedó estancado. Fue in crescendo y de repente plano plano no pasó nada.
No hubo desarrollo del romance fue desapasionado, tibio nada del romance arrollador que yo quería, las escenas de cama pues ni hablar muy decepcionantes, en serio TODAS fueron de ella con camisón arriba y el encima y es todo, que raro porque la autora si las hace buenas.

Los personajes principales no me cayeron mal de hecho todo lo hicieron bien y eso es lo que no me gustó que no hubo sobresaltos.

Le voy a dar 3 estrellas porque estuvo bien pero hasta ahí.
Profile Image for Daniella.
256 reviews520 followers
August 2, 2015
I really loved Only a Promise. It was sweet and poignant and brilliantly written. The angst was handled very well; it was justified and kept to a reasonable limit, unlike, say, The Secret Passion of Simon Blackwell by Samantha James. The love scenes were very lukewarm, though, but that didn't really bother me since I realised, later on in the book, that this was not about the romance. The story was all about how Ralph and Chloe developed themselves. How they, because of their marriage, learned how to move on from the past, to let go of their fears...

And to actually live.

Yes, this was a story about two people dying and coming back to life. Because that's what Ralph and Chloe were at the start: dead. They were dead inside; they had given up hope for love, for intimacy, for happiness. Until their marriage proved them otherwise. Until they learned that their love for each other brought them to life.

And I'm not only talking about love in a sexual sense here, as is usual in romance novels. No, what they had went deeper than that. They had companionship, friendship, intimacy. Their love was a collection of all those things, and it was simply beautiful to witness.

I cried. I blushed. I laughed.

And I simply adored every minute of it.
Profile Image for Vintage.
2,367 reviews421 followers
January 19, 2020
An okay read in an otherwise great series.

Ralph, the hero, is suffering massive guilt and PTSD over his own injuries and seeing his closest friends get killed in front of him. He's been a lesser character in other books, and I never realized until this one he's only 25. So young!

The heroine is struggling with her own baggage: the fact that she may not be her father's daughter and the familial and social ramifications of that.

The romance between the H and h develops very slowly, very slowly, and it's a pretty reluctant romance with some less than smoldering sex scenes.

Glad I read it as it is part of the series, but seriously doubt a re-read ever.
Profile Image for Julie .
3,997 reviews58.9k followers
January 12, 2016
Only a Promise by Mary Balogh is a 2015 Signet publication.

This book turned out to be one of my very favorites in the survivor’s club series!

I know I sound like a broken record, but this series is appealing to me for a number of reasons. The Survivor’s Club struck a chord with me right off, and so far, I don’t think I’ve missed a single book. The premise is one in which wounded soldiers, mentally, emotionally, and physically, are still recovering from the effects of war. Each story is compelling, emotional, and inspirational. All the characters have had to overcome major obstacles in order to open their hearts up to the possibility of falling in love.

Ralph’s story is no exception and it is certainly painful, so I really felt bad for him. He is severely wounded physically in the Neapolitan war, and is left scarred, but it is the loss of three comrades during the war, which has left him emotionally drained to the point where he has nothing left inside but bitter regret and remorse.

For Chloe it is a broken heart that taught her that love is just a lie, the actions of a selfish sister that ruined her chances of marriage, and the shocking revelations about her parents that have caused her to become fodder for the cruel gossips in London society. With her reputation in ruins, this chance with Ralph is a golden opportunity for her. But, once they are married, and reality sets in, all of Chloe’s hopes are dashed as she endures the one thing in this world she dreaded the most, and Ralph appears impervious to her pain.

I love the mature characters, how they deal with really difficult and complex issues, and go through transitions that only love’s restorative powers can accomplish. I literally watched Ralph fall in his wife, saw him face his worst fears, and all that bottled up pain slowly released from him.

“No man can do everything,” Graham explained. “Each of us can do only what is within his power. If we dwell upon our inability to solve the world’s problems, our only possible recourse is to despair. Despair accomplishes nothing.”

Chloe is a character I admire tremendously. No matter what era you live in the shock she endured concerning her parents is one that would send anyone into a tailspin.

Like Chloe my first inclination would be to withdraw from society and it was Ralph’s preference as well, until duty called.

��The trouble with running away is that you must always take yourself with you.”

Both main characters really stepped into their roles, gaining strength from one another as their love for each other grew. I loved how Ralph addressed his feeling for Chloe, as not just about romantic love, or sexual pleasure, but that deep abiding love that is what holds couples together through the ups and downs that life inevitably brings.

This is a wonderful story about learning to face your worst fears, forgiving yourself, and the power of love which is what made all that possible for Ralph and Chloe.

I loved this one!! 5 stars
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,897 reviews1,501 followers
September 22, 2015
My least favorite of the series so far. Ralph has been something of an enigma through the other books. Indeed, I always struggle to remember that he's one of the Survivors. The trouble is that he's a brooder and kind of egotistical about it.

Chloe is fine, I guess. She has had wretched luck and is kind of licking her wounds when she runs across Ralph. She overhears his frustration with the standard ingénues and a reluctance to blight their lives with a husband who won't care for them (however well he does his duty to care for and protect). So naturally she signs up, instead (and yes, her wretched luck was indeed so bad that this was a move up for her). Anyway, she had guts and grows into them and that's all well and good.

The problem with Ralph, for me, is that I have no personal experience with such deep grief and guilt. It seemed rather self-indulgent to me, even before we found out that it was, indeed, rather self-indulgent. I've never had that depth of depression, either. Altogether, that made him kind of hard for me to relate to or even want to spend much time with. This isn't helped by his resenting Chloe because he's developing feelings for her. Like it's her fault she's just so nice to him that he's becoming attached. Which is then exacerbated by him taking weeks to get over himself. Literally weeks.

Anyway, I'm painting him a bit harsher than he probably deserves. He's not a dead loss and he does pull it together in the end. I kept wanting to thunk him on the head, but that was only half the time. The rest of the half he at least did support Chloe, even emotionally.

A note about Steamy: This one had a good half-dozen explicit scenes, but they were skimmed over, mostly. So still in the middle of my steam range, even if more frequent. Frankly, at least a quarter of my problem with Ralph is his rather cold-blooded manner in the bedroom—even after he has come to cherish Chloe, he doesn't show it or say it or indicate in any way his growing reliance on her or the comfort she freely gives him. He's a selfish taker, is what I'm saying and it made me respect him less.
Profile Image for Liz F.
718 reviews
May 23, 2015
Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.

I've read all of the books in this series. Some I've liked more than others. I'm actually not a huge fan of this author. For me, it's hit or miss. But this series has captured me and I love it. I can't quit reading it!

I experienced the entire spectrum of feelings when it came to Chloe, the heroine. I liked her just fine at the start. She's been harshly affected by a couple of scandals involving her family. Chloe has never done anything wrong at all but because of those scandals, she's sort of been laughed out of London. Or shunned out, anyway. And she feels that she's pretty much ineligible on the marriage mart since no one would want her. So I really felt for her at that point. I liked when she approached the hero with her marriage bargain. I thought she was so brave! But then I stopped liking her for a while because I felt like she let the hero hurt her feelings over and over again without giving him attitude or anything. Not even a LITTLE bit of attitude! But finally, her bravery and backbone shows up again and I was right back to liking her!

Ralph was a very difficult character to like. He's been depressed ever since he came back from the war. He blames himself for his three best friends getting killed in the war. Through most of the book, he was a sad and angry man. I could understand why he was that way, of course, but he still wasn't likable or fun to read. He'd pretty much shut himself off emotionally from everyone. He doesn't want a wife because he knows he's an empty shell and has nothing, emotionally, to offer. He was right: the cold and unfeeling way he dealt with Chloe for most of the book made me more and more angry. The fact that Chloe just let him act that way made me like Ralph less and less. I think I was about 75% through the book before I even STARTED liking Ralph. And even at the end, I was glad that he was a better person but for me, it didn't make up for the way he had treated Chloe earlier.

The Sexy Time was okay. I found it to be pretty typical for a historical romance in regards to heat level and frequency. Actually, the heat level was a bit lower than usual since it sounded TO ME like Chloe just laid there, like a cold fish, and Ralph just performed the act long enough to fill her with his seed and he rolled off. Actually, it was a pretty big turn off for a majority of the book. And I didn't like Chloe and Ralph's "relationship" for most of the book either and I'm using that term very lightly. He never beat her or anything awful like that. But he was certainly unkind and unfeeling. He rebuffed Chloe a lot and not only does that hurt one's feelings, it really is a blow to one's self-esteem as well. I didn't think Ralph ever did enough (or anything, actually) to make up for that.

This book was just okay for me. There are other books in this series that I liked a lot more and would recommend. Chloe was decent but I wished she would have stood up to Ralph's rudeness a bit more. Ralph, of course, takes a pretty significant emotional journey in this book. As glad as I was that he'd made peace with some things, I still say he wasn't much fun to read. I would not recommend starting this series with this particular book but I'm still looking forward to the next book in this series.
Profile Image for Kiki.
1,217 reviews487 followers
December 23, 2017
The fact that hero was not only NOT a virgin but visited courtesan/prostitute before marriage was just ick!

He also asked if heroine was a virgin. I don't believe it would have been a deal breaker if she wasn't, he was rather assuming she wasn't but fact remains she was and he wasn't.

Also he was extremely selfish and behaved exactly as it suited him and didn't care a little bit for his wife very easily breaking the promise. I understand it was implied but he was fully aware of the implications and he kept hurting the heroine because HE couldn't keep a check on his emotions. Which the heroine did rather brilliantly! For an "honourable" character he was actually not honourable at all!

I did not see the love forming. I mean I can see why HE loved her because it was all give on her side and take on his. But I don't see how she could love him romantically simply because he's the only guy paying her respect. I can see an ok marriage but not passionate HEA the book implied.

And what the hell us this with regency heroes having sex with their sleeping wives????? Yuck!
Profile Image for Mahima.
463 reviews105 followers
January 16, 2021
**** 4.5 stars ****
Mary Balogh is a really impressive author. I've got a collection of her novels but started reading it just now. I'm definitely not disappointed in the writing style or the plotting but the one and only drawback was the not-so-strong characters.

I liked the pace of the story. It was the perfect combination of a slow burn romance and historical fiction. I especially liked the beginning of the book. It was quite promising.

By the time story started to progress I felt in a good pace with it. Everything was almost perfect and I savoured each and every chapter of it.

The only thing lacking was in the characters. I feel like I know both Chloe and Ralph very well. I understand their situations as well. But at some points I didn't feel that connection with them. Maybe because somewhere they both were way too lost in their pasts and guilts.
I wish there was better connection between me and the characters.

Rest was amazingly written!
Profile Image for Alba Turunen.
650 reviews205 followers
June 23, 2021
4 Estrellitas. Tengo la impresión de que le he puesto la misma nota a toda la serie, pero la verdad es que éste Club de los Supervivientes está mereciendo la pena.

He llegado al quinto libro y en él tenemos la historia de Ralph, conde de Berwick, y Chloe Muirhead. Ralph quedó malherido durante las guerras napoleónicas. Aunque físicamente está bien, su cabeza y su sentido de la responsabilidad quedaron muy dañados, pues se echa la culpa de la muerte de sus tres mejores amigos en la guerra, al haber sido él quien les convenció de alistarse.

Al igual que todos los Supervivientes, Ralph pasó tres años en la mansión del duque de Stanbrooke en Cornualles, recuperándose física y mentalmente. Y ahora, es uno de los pocos y jóvenes amigos que queda soltero. Ralph es el heredero del duque de Worthington, su abuelo, que está muy mayor y enfermo querría verle casado y trayendo un heredero, Ralph sabe cuáles son sus deberes, y en sus circunstancias, realmente le da igual con quién casarse, porque el suyo será un matrimonio por poderes.

Chloe Muirhead es una rara belleza de pelo color zanahoria, y ése cabello ha sido el culpable de que se haya recluido de la buena sociedad. A los veintisiete años, lo que más querría es casarse y tener su propia familia, pero no busca amor, solo una situación cómoda que pueda servir para algo. Actualmente está como dama de compañía de la duquesa de Worthington, la abuela de Ralph, que fue la mejor amiga de su propia abuela.

Realmente, Chloe y Ralph no se atraen nada, ni tienen mucho en común. Sólo comparten que ambos quieren o deben casarse y así es como ella se lo propone. Ralph piensa que puede ser un buen apaño para ambos y acepta. Así es como acuerdan un matrimonio de conveniencia para que él no tenga que pasar por la temporada londinense delante de tontas jovencitas, y ella alcance lo que más desea, su propia familia y posición sin sentirse una mantenida.

Pero los acontecimientos serán muy apabullantes nada más casarse y ambos descubrirán que su pareja vale más de lo que pensarían, y que sus sentimientos pueden unirlos más de lo que querrían.

Digamos que ambos protagonistas tienen sus demonios del pasado que vencer, ella una serie de escándalos familiares ajenos a ella, pero que la han salpicado muy profundamente, y él el miedo y la vergüenza que puede sentir al seguir vivo, mientras que sus amigos no.

Una serie de personajes secundarios se lo pondrá más fácil a nuestros protagonistas, pues tendremos la presencia y amistad de todos los Supervivientes y sus allegados por matrimonio, sobre todo Gwen y su importante familia, y la aparición estelar de mi querido Wulfric, el duque de Bewcastle.

El romance es bastante más efímero de lo que me gustaría ver en una novela romántica, pero tenemos una pareja que no se atrae ni tiene pensado enamorarse, si no que es un arreglo por ambas partes. Y por eso mismo se cocerá poco a poco, pero lo cierto es que al final me ha faltado algo, su amor se demuestra más con actos que con sentimientos y es esto último lo que he echado de menos.

Aún así es una novela que he disfrutado muchísimo, y me alegro de que por fin Titania vaya a publicar la serie, pues realmente merece la pena. Sólo espero que las publicaciones no sean tan tardías, pues sólo me queda conocer las historias de Imogen y el duque de Stanbrooke.
Profile Image for Corduroy.
197 reviews42 followers
September 30, 2015
I don't know if I'm going to finish this. Balogh is a fine writer, but the recent books of hers I've read (the Survivor's Club series) have all had the same set of problems that make me feel frustrated and disengaged.

Premise: your hero, a scarred and traumatized survivor of the Napoleonic wars, is an aging Duke's heir and needs to get married. Your heroine, a spinsterish lady who has recently suffered, through no fault of her own, through a couple of scandals that have rendered her essentially unmarriageable, is visiting his grandmother, the duchess, and living as her companion. They meet and decide to get married for convenience: she wants a home and a family, he needs a wife and heirs. She makes him promise they won't have to go to London and will live quietly in the country; he makes her agree to a marriage that is very impersonal and unemotional, if also polite and respectful.

Almost immediately after they marry, the duke dies, and their plans to live quietly in the country go out the window. They have to go to London, the heroine has to deal with her various scandals, the hero has to deal with his guilt over having survived combat when his friends did not, and in the meantime they are having lots of procreative sex and trying not to have feelings for each other.

I started out liking this, but by the time they'd been in London for a few days, I was ready to quit. Balogh really likes a particular type of conflict that centers on family dynamics and mild interpersonal trauma: she particularly loves family drama that involves adult children and their parents. On the one hand, I admire this, because certainly her couples tend to be dealing with what I think of as "grown-up problems". On the other hand, I really noticed in this one that the way everyone is soooo supportive of the heroine and all of the other couples in the Survivor's Club rally around their friend's new wife seemed fake and weird and just generally bothered me. It's sort of like a marriage as Mary Sue, if that makes any sense. As soon as they get married, there's this outpouring of approval of and support for the heroine that kind of made me roll my eyes. (There is a line I highlighted where the author informs us that the dowager Duchess, an extremely new widow, loves that the heroine is not wearing mourning for the late Duke. Everyone is extremely pleased with everything she does, from the servants to her new in-laws.) Like do these other couples have nothing better to do than fawn over her? Don't they have barns that need re-roofing at home or anything?

I also felt that I could see the writing on the wall in terms of the marriage conflict: the heroine is clearly falling for the hero, the hero is distant and stilted and needs her magic love to heal! And I just... didn't care that much. I wanted to, but didn't.

Finally, Balogh's sex scenes are often odd to me. Kind of copious, but dispassionate in a way I find confusing. I've seen the thing that happens in here several times in several other books, where the initial sex between the married couple if very "the husband enters the room, lifts the wife's nightgown, and does his business", and the wife kind of likes it even though - ouch! You know what I'm saying? In this book, the book keeps telling us that the hero has sex two or three times a night (!!!!) with the heroine in this extremely clinical way where there is no touching or sensual description. Maybe that is period-correct for all I know, but I don't like it as a reader.
Profile Image for eyes.2c.
2,358 reviews44 followers
June 11, 2022
Another re-read! Survivor’s club member Ralph Stockwood is in need of a wife. Chloe Muirhead wants a family. When she and Ralph meet at the home of her mother’s godmother, Chloe, fully aware of Ralph’s need, proposes to him. Oh My!
Profile Image for DemetraP.
3,689 reviews
July 9, 2015
I thought earlier books in The Survivor's Club series were more romantic. Especially Vincent's book.

I really never warmed up to the hero. He's got a big facial scar, but he's a rich and powerful heir to a duke. He feels a ton of guilt because his 3 best friends followed him to the war and got killed.

The heroine was a spinster at 27 because her younger sister ran off with a married playwright. And there are some rumors that the heroine's father is not her biological father.

The hero and hero decide to marry so that he doesn't have to find a bride who thinks he'll love her. He thinks he is incapable of love. (She agrees because she just wants to have kids)

The idea sounds great. A hero thinks he can't love and learns how to love his wife.

Sadly, the romance never materialized. Their usual physical interactions involve her pulling up her nightgown in the dark and the hero enjoying himself while the heroine finds it "pleasant"

They had a few deep conversations about their lives that really gave me hope they would fall deeply in love. But those few deep conversations and the actions they decide to take are it.

The hero eventually tries harder to please the heroine in the bedroom. And they both enjoy themselves.

I just felt like the majority of the book was them dealing with their other problems, not dealing with their romance.

I look forward to the next book in the series. But I highly recommend earlier books in the series like Vincent's book.
Profile Image for Dinjolina.
526 reviews497 followers
June 24, 2015
Most of the book was food for thought. It was extraordinary realistic at times, with the author masterly delineating the somewhat ordinary characters and their everyday struggles in a marriage without love.

There was no cushioning of tragedy, and the whole deal was a pretty straightforward affair showcasing two people that fall in like before being in love. There are no giddy feelings, just deep essential human emotions that need time and effort in order to develop.

Still, while I applaud the prose, and marvel at the unique simplicity of it, the book as a whole felt somewhat flat. It was a study of human relations much more than a love story. And while it kept me interested, it was boring on another - almost inexplicable - level.

I will read the next book, and will slobber at the thought of Gorge getting his own story. But I do not recommend this book to people that are not devoted Mary Balogh fans or avid HR readers.
Profile Image for Jacqueline J.
3,461 reviews311 followers
June 3, 2015
A lovely addition to the series. This one is a marriage of convenience story that takes place over maybe 2 months or so. The story mainly concerns the growing relationship between two people who had given up on relationships/love. There was a lot about PTSD and it was dealt with well within the understanding that people had about the illness two hundred years ago. Lovely relationship development. It was nice to see a family that dealt with scandal without casting out the offender which in this case was the heroine's younger sister. I did get some flashes of Pride and Prejudice with that character though but I enjoyed them. It was nice to see some old friends from other books. Now we have to wait for the next one. Bummer...
Profile Image for Debby *BabyDee*.
1,137 reviews58 followers
May 30, 2018
Book 5 of the Survivor’s Club series is a story of complex characters who gradually grow to love one another. It is a couple that will need to face death, jealousy, and family tension. It is Ralph’s journey with dealing with the challenges of what I believe is PSTD, guilt and forgiveness that guides the couple on their road to HEA.

Ralph, Earl of Berwick is a prideful Earl turned Duke who find himself lost in guilt and pity. Although he has severe physical scars from the war, his underlying issue stems from his struggles with survivor’s guilt because he had to watch his closes friends literally dye before his eyes. He can’t forgive himself because he is convinced that he is responsible and no one else can forgive him for leading them to their death. Chloe Muirhead has had her share of tragedies which have been the result of others but she in the end is paying the price. At age 27 years, she has resigned herself to a life of spinsterhood and becomes the companion to her godmother, Ralph’s grandmother.

One day while Ralph visits his grandparents, Chloe overhears him promising his grandmother that he will fulfill his obligations of marrying and producing an heir very soon. She subsequently proposes an unemotional, sterile marriage to Ralph who has already blocked out all emotions he once held in his previous life. He needs a wife and heir and she wants a husband and children. He agrees to the proposition and they marry. On one hand, Ralph shows Chloe a side of himself that could be respectful and gentlemanly but then turns nasty and insulting that always ends up with him apologizing with make up sex. There is no intimacy between them…it is purely just empty sex. Chloe also shows an uncharacteristic side of her with overstepping at times her bounds as a wife that goes beyond their “marriage of convenience”.

Both the H/h are not perfect individuals and will never become them. The understand clearly one another’s issues and fears without really understanding their own problems. They save one another by unleashing those issues and fears that have held them prisoners in their own heads. Not until they release all the hurt, guilt, and shame. Ralph finds the courage to seek the forgiveness from his friend’s family that was clearly not warranted and Chloe confronts her fears of being shunned by society for the sins of others internal and external her family. It is these atonements that allows Ralph and Chloe that unleashes the emotional safeguard that they placed on themselves within their marriage. It leads the couple on a road to love for a happy and contented marriage.

The H/h were wonderful individuals in this story. The pacing of the plot was a big plus in character development and bringing their issues/problems to a head. It was not your typical romance as it spoke to a much deeper level of a budding romance between the H/h. It concentrated more on the characters themselves then the twists. This is one beautiful and lovely story in this series from Mary Balogh that really tugged at my heart and wanted Ralph and Chloe to have that HEA in the end. It was well written and truly enjoyed by this reader.

Profile Image for Olga Godim.
Author 12 books70 followers
October 3, 2015
It’s hard for me to write a review for this book. On one hand, it made an impact. On the other, I didn’t really like it, even though I couldn’t stop reading. The problem, as is often the case for me, is in the protagonists, or rather one of them, the man, Ralph Stockwood.
The novel is a regency romance, #5 in the Survivors’ Club series. The plot is simple and could be summed up in four words: a marriage of convenience. Ralph, the hero, survived the Napoleonic wars, but all his friends died on the battlefield, and he feels guilty. He also suffers from PTSD and depression, rather frequent maladies for former soldiers. He closed his heart for emotions of any kind – it’s easier not to become attached, not to allow himself to feel.
Unfortunately, he is the heir to a dukedom (poor Ralph, he is to become a duke soon, as soon as his grandfather dies – don’t you pity him, folks?). He must get married and produce an heir and a spare. He is contemplating marriage without feelings when he meets the heroine Chloe.
Chloe suffered several disappointments of her own. At twenty-six, she is resigned to being a spinster but she fervently wishes for a family of her own, a husband, a home, and children. She suggests a bargain to Ralph. They would get married but wouldn’t even think of an emotional connection. They would be cold, emotionless partners in bed and out of it. Ralph agrees.
The majority of the book happens after, as they both try to keep to their bargain. Ralph succeeds much better than Chloe. He treats her like a cold-hearted bastard, in bed and out of it. Their sex scenes are simple penetration. He doesn’t go for any foreplay, doesn’t touch or even kiss her, just sticks his dick inside, and she allows this repulsive treatment. She made a bargain after all.
I understand his problems, I do. I was diagnose with depression myself a decade ago and have been managing it since. It’s not easy and it explains a lot in his behavior but it doesn’t excuse him being a jerk to her. Nothing does.
The author explores several complex themes in her story: love and happiness, mental illness and courage. What does it mean to be brave, she asks her readers? Is Ralph a coward if he is afraid to risk opening his heart again? But he was brave enough to gallop at the enemy through the hail of bullets. Is it bravery to stand up for your convictions, even if everyone around you disapproves? Is it bravery or cowardice or foolishness to be a pacifist at the time of war? Do you need courage to love? Are those braveries different from each other?
Below are a few quotes I couldn’t resist including in my review.

Chloe’s brother, Graham, a clergyman, talks about love:
“I try not to make judgements,” he said. “What is your good may be my evil. I try just to love – a simple enough concept, though even loving is not simple. Perhaps it merely means accepting people for who they are and respecting their choices and sympathizing with their pain.”
Graham again, this time talking about pain:
“It’s the human condition,” he said. “No one who lives into adulthood can escape it. Even children cannot. It is what we do with the pain, though, how we allow it to shape our character and actions and relationships that matters.”
And here what Chloe thinks about happiness:
“Happiness is just a word,” she said. “It is like love in that way. There are many definitions, all of them accurate, but none of them all-encompassing.”
How true.
Profile Image for Lady Wesley.
924 reviews313 followers
January 2, 2016
January 1, 2016
One of my five 2015 favorites on Romantic Historical Reviews. Please follow the link to see favorites from Caz, Wendy, Claudia, Natalie, Sara, and moi.

July 30, 2015
Happy sigh. Mary Balogh, a leading light in the historical romance genre, continued her Survivors’ Club series with Only a Promise) , narrated by the incomparable Rosalyn Landor. Waterloo survivor Ralph Stockwood, whose wounds are psychic and thus largely invisible to the world, is reluctant to take a wife even though he knows that he needs to. Enter Chloe Muirhead, who wants to marry and have a family but whose hopes have been dashed by scandal in her family. She proposes to Ralph, offering him a marriage of convenience free of pesky feelings of love and desire. Ah, but this is Romance, so it is inevitable that the two will indeed fall in love. Chloe and Ralph are mature adults, however, and thus it is the deliberate, realistic, and poignant manner in which this HEA comes about that distinguishes this story.
Profile Image for Dagmar .
192 reviews32 followers
June 16, 2022
Profound and lovely. A wonderful story of awakening and understanding and the effect of war on those who have survived. Loved it as much as the others in the series.
Profile Image for Juliana Philippa.
995 reviews913 followers
June 20, 2020
4.5 stars. One of my favorites of the series this far.

Quite difficult in some ways, because Ralph is definitely a tortured hero. He was the one whose story I was most unsure (though that’s not the right word) about reading, because I felt like I knew him the least thus far out of all the Survivors. (I used the mental illness tag because he has been suffering from a depression; he attempted suicide previously and was suicidal during his rough period at Penderris, the Duke’s house where the Survivors’ Club recovered.

I adored Chloe. I really admire her strength and that she’s the one who proposes the bargain; she wants a home, family, and children and has almost given up on this possibility for herself. She’s had a rough go of it these last few years, no doubt.

It’s definitely tough to see her reach out to him, him respond, and then lash out or push her away somehow immediately after. But both of their actions and reactions are understandable; if they hadn’t started with the clear understanding that they didn’t expect anything emotional from the other person, it would have annoyed me and I might have grown impatient with him.

I will say I was quite annoyed by their sex at the beginning of their marriage; Balogh isn’t the most explicit author, but I’m also very accustomed to her writing and knows how she describes things and I don’t think Chloe orgasms at all during that initial period before that one breakthrough night. Even if they’re keeping to this kind of arrangement, it seemed really selfish. Yes, he has to come for them to have kids, not her, but still ... since he gets to enjoy it he should be taking care of her too!! I get that she’s passive at the beginning but that’s normal given the day and age; she doesn’t know what to do, so that’s where he comes in. No pun intended lol.

Again ... where’s my epilogue?? This one also felt like it cut out kind of, ending abruptly as soon as all was good. I don’t remember her other series being like this, but maybe I’m misremembering.

The Survivors' Club Series
Book 1: The Proposal (unrated) — Hugo's story
Book 2: The Arrangement (4-4.5 stars) — Vincent's story
Book 3: The Escape (4.5 stars) — Benedict's story
Book 4: Only Enchanting (4 stars) — Flavian's story
Book 5: Only a Promise (4.5 stars) — Ralph's story
Book 6: Only a Kiss (TBR) — Imogen's story
Book 7: Only Beloved (3.5 stars) — George's story
Profile Image for Jen Davis.
Author 7 books695 followers
July 1, 2015
Mary Balogh’s Survivors Club series never disappoints. I have to admit that Ralph didn’t strike much of a chord with me in previous books. And when I was reminded that he was the survivor with a scar across his face, I expected a much different book. Maybe something Beauty and the Beast-y or the kind of story where everyone is repulsed by his scar and only the heroine can see the real man beneath. It was neither. Instead, the book focuses far more on our hero’s psychological scars and it’s all the better for it.

Ralph doesn’t have a lot of personality for a reason. He became of shell of himself after he lost his three best friends in the war. It’s not the scars or injuries to his body that destroyed him. It was the survivor’s guilt. It drove him nearly to suicide –and the only reason he was able to overcome it was because he turned his feelings off… or very nearly so. Now his grandfather, the Duke, is edging closer to the grave and Ralph can no longer ignore his duty to marry and produce an heir. He is willing, but there is no way love can ever enter the equation.

Chloe doesn’t expect marriage will ever be in her future. Two scandals tied to her family have made her quite ineligible. So now she is staying away from the ton, serving as a guest to her grandmother’s best friend. Her hostess just happens to be Ralph’s grandmother, which is ultimately how Chloe and Ralph cross paths. The two end up making a match of convenience. She gets the children and security she wants and he gets a wife willing to provide heir with no expectations of tender feelings.

It takes awhile before we really begin to see Ralph’s personality. But Chloe is painted very clearly. She is practical, pragmatic, and intelligent. I loved that she took a chance and went after what she wanted. She is loyal and honorable. And though she has been dealt more than one bad hand in her life, she never rolled over and played dead. I loved the genuine affection she held for Ralph’s grandparents. I respected the way she approached her relationship with Ralph and the poise and class she displayed in difficult moments.

The romance is a slow burn, but it’s worth the wait. It’s also worth the wait to see Ralph come out of his shell. These two are so good for each other and I really enjoyed watching them both realize it.

This book isn’t quite as angsty as some of the other installments. I guess that is because Ralph internalizes so much. But I still enjoyed his journey and was satisfied with the HEA. Can’t wait for the next one!

Rating: B/B+

*ARC provided by publisher
Profile Image for Tin.
340 reviews109 followers
June 16, 2015
How many stories about soldiers returning home from war could there possibly be? Many, as Mary Balogh shows us in her latest Survivors Club series instalment. Ralph Stockwood is dead inside, and, for a while, he had wanted to die altogether. He went to war with three of his closest friends, and came home alone -- alive, but not free of the guilt and horror that comes with watching your friends die.

But Ralph needs to go on living, for the sake of his family, for the sake of his grandparents, and Ralph needs to get married soon, for the sake of the duchy of Worthingham. With his money, and title, it should be easy for Ralph to find a willing woman -- but Ralph knows it will be a miserable marriage, because he has nothing beyond his wealth and title to offer his future wife.

Chloe Muirhead is facing a bleak future -- she is dependent on the largesse of the eighty-two-year-old Duchess of Worthingham, who was her late mother's godmother. She can foresee the end of this situation, and knows there's nothing but difficulty beyond that. When she overhears a conversation between Ralph and her grandmother, Chloe brazenly offers herself to Ralph.

"...I have no illusions about marital happiness and would be quite willing to accept the marriage for what it would be. I would not interfere with your life. I would live mine in a way that would never publicly embarrass you or privately inconvenience you. If you were to agree to marry me, you would be saved from all the bother of making your choice among the many eligible young ladies in whom you have no interest whatsoever."

He found his voice at last.

"I have no interest in you, Miss Moorhead." It was brutal, but he felt savage -- and cold to the heart.

"Of course you do not," she said, looking unmoved, though a downward glance showed him that her knuckles had whitened against her shawl. "I would not expect or, or desire it. ..."
- pp. 33-34

So begins the marriage of convenience between Ralph and Chloe who are both willing to accept the parameters of this arrangement -- neither expects love or affection, and understand that sex is only for the sake of begetting an heir.

At the heart of Ralph's problem is decision making: he was born a leader, and had been the unspoken leader of his group of friends in school. He made a choice to purchase a commission, and convinced his three friends to go along -- and it resulted in tragedy. After living in a state of "suspended animation" for three years at Penderris, reality has forced its way back into Ralph's existence, and he's had to make the life-changing decision of marrying Chloe. It really wasn't the best of starts, with a marriage and Ralph's grandfather's death coming one after the other. I admired how steady Chloe was, and how calmly Ralph was handling his new responsibility, though I could imagine how panicked he must feel inside. The sense of responsibility continues to haunt Ralph, and now he has no choice but be the Duke of Worthingham, a position in which he is responsible for the lives and livelihood of many.

He would give anything in the world to bring back those days, to have the chance to take a different path into the future than the one he had actually taken. Sometimes he wondered what would have happened if he had not become so consumed with his grand idea of saving the world from tyranny or if his grandfather had put his foot down and refused to purchase his commission.
- p. 235

Chloe's problem isn't less complicated compared to Ralph. A disastrous second foray into London has had Chloe wondering about her birth, her mother, and whether Sir Kevin Muirhead is her real father. There's a part of Chloe that wants to know, but a greater part that wishes the problem would just disappear. It's the reason why Chloe sought out the Duchess of Worthingham, and applied for a position. Chloe was afraid to stay in the same house as her father. Chloe was afraid to confront the truth.

As I read through Only a Promise, I was amazed by how well Mary Balogh understands and expresses those very awkward aspects of ourselves. Balogh expressed so, so eloquently and so accurately all the painful, not-pretty thoughts that go through our minds on a daily basis. (There were some moments when I could completely relate to the situation and found myself thinking, "That's exactly how I feel."

I also loved the stark honesty in the dialogue and thoughts of the main characters -- these aren't your typical starry-eyed lovers. These are two world-weary people, who are entering a relationship with eyes wide open -- they know that there is no room for romance or dreams in their marriage. It's actually quite sad to realise just how bleak life becomes when one's ideals are quashed so thoroughly.

She thought briefly of the dreams of romance and love and marriage with which she had embarked upon her come-out Season at the advanced age of twenty-one. And the ghastly awakening that had killed those dreams. Reality was preferable.
- p. 69

* * *

It was not romantic love she felt for him, for there were no illusions. She did not expect moonlight and music and roses. She did not even expect a return of her feelings. There was no euphoria and never would be. She was not in love. There were no stars in her eyes. There was merely an acceptance of who he was, even the vast depths of him she did not know and perhaps never would.
- p. 277

It was actually amazing how Mary Balogh turned something so unromantic into something very romantic. And then turning a romance into a reflection on choices, consequences, and where we find the courage to face our worst fears.

"I almost welcomed the physical pain," he told her. "I lashed myself with it. I thought perhaps if it was bad enough I could atone with it."

"Atone?" She felt a chill crawl along her spine.

"For causing death," he said, "and untold suffering. For surviving."
- p. 159

Man vs. Himself. We often believe that the greatest threats to our persons are outside forces -- but, in truth, we are our own worst enemies, as Ralph and Chloe show us in Only a Promise. War is terrible, and the effects of war are often not physical ones. Ralph shows how painfully debilitating guilt and uncertainty is, and how difficult it is to overcome. Chloe's doubts are just as paralysing. What I liked about how Balogh handled their situation is that Ralph and Chloe were both surrounded by patient, supportive, and understanding people -- and they, themselves were patient, supportive, and understanding of one another. In that, Balogh shows us a different aspect of love. This love is like a well from which we draw courage from. This is a love that frees.

Only a Promise is a beautiful, moving, and honest story about love, loss, regret, and acceptance. It is Book 5 in Mary Balogh's The Survivors Club series.
Profile Image for Ingie.
1,328 reviews169 followers
April 22, 2018
Review written April 22, 2018

3.7 Stars - Lovely as all parts in this series

Book #5
in the historical romances series The Survivors’ Club written by Mary Balogh, books I liked a lot so far. Grownup HR with some seriousness and about a bit “older-feeling” main characters than in more common sweet & romantic stories in this genre.

« The Survivors' Club: Six men and one woman, all wounded in the Napoleonic Wars, their friendship forged during their recovery at Penderris Hall in Cornwall. »

I was listening to the 13 hours audiobook narrated by -the very very best HR narrator- Rosalyn Landor.


« Ralph Stockwood prides himself on being a leader, but when he convinced his friends to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, he never envisioned being the sole survivor. ~ Since her Seasons in London ended in disaster, Chloe Muirhead is resigned to spinsterhood. Driven by the need to escape her family, she takes refuge at the home of her mother's godmother, where she meets Ralph. ~ He needs a wife. She wants a husband. So Chloe makes the outrageous suggestion to strike a bargain and get married. »

Not the very best or most thrilling plot maybe but a good romance read. It’s good when main characters are people you may believe as real people. They are both weak and strong, they argue and aren’t flawless. Just ordinary men and women ... which cares, laughs and loves.

Recommended series.


I LIKE - to meet survivors...
Profile Image for Amarilli 73 .
2,160 reviews69 followers
January 28, 2018
Oh. Non credevo che mi sarebbe mai capitato di dare due stelle alla Divina.
Ma, ragazze, che barba. Non finiva più.
Lo so che molte lettrici saranno in disaccordo, perchè si tratta sempre di una scrittura di qualità, i personaggi sono sempre ben delineati, ecc.
Ora, io sono conscia di ciò. Ho letto tutto il leggibile della Balogh, dai romanzi giovanili a questi più recenti, so cosa aspettarmi e cosa no.
So che spesso lei ha un procedere lento, fatto di dettagli, di un lento riscaldarsi. Ma poi arrivano le Emozioni.
Qui, davvero, in più punti ho avuto l'impressione che dovesse riempire il tot pagine convenute con l'editore, perchè avrà riassunto le storie degli altri Survivors almeno tre volte.
E che caspita, li ho già letti e apprezzati. Ma di Ralph che mi dici?
Assolutamente non pervenuto.
Questo ragazzo ha sofferto di depressione, è riluttante ad esporsi di nuovo alle emozioni, e il matrimonio con la pratica e sensibile Chloe può essere un mezzo per il riscatto.
Però... che noia tremenda.
Non è un caso che vengano richiamati praticamente tutti, dai Survivors al Duca di Ghiaccio, per inserire qualche dialogo lieve e risollevare la trama. Ma per me non è bastato.

Unico maschio degno di nota: Graham. Ecco, su di lui avrei costruito il libro, e come lettrice lo leggerei volentieri.
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